Typically, quarterbacks get a slight grace period when they change teams. That isn’t going to happen with Alex Smith and the Washington Redskins.
Alex Smith would love to have the luxury of taking his time to settle into the Redskins offense. Unfortunately, the team’s fans and coaching staff has a very different idea. Smith is feeling immense pressure to put up big numbers starting in Week One with his new team.
Part of the pressure certainly comes along with replacing a talented signal caller like Kirk Cousins. The Redskins front office was perfectly happy with Cousins’ performance on the field. They just didn’t want to pay him like one of top five quarterbacks in the game. That’s why he’s in Minnesota this season.
Clearly, that left the Redskins with a massive hole to fill at the position. Trading for Smith made a lot of sense for Washington. Kansas City wasn’t going to ask for an arm and a leg because they were ready to hand the job over to Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs chose to swing for the fences while the ‘Skins made a relatively subtle move to make sure they receive quality quarterback play next season.
Jay Gruden isn’t pulling any punches about his expectations for Smith. He expects the former No. 1 overall pick to play at a high level from day one. In Gruden’s mind, he doesn’t really have a choice. The Washington coach knows his team needs to “win right away” with Smith at the controls.
Don’t expect Smith to struggle with the mental side of things. He ran a very complicated system under Andy Reid in Kansas City. Gruden also calls him one of the smartest players he’s been around. He might have a rough patches in training camp trying to understand the nuances of Gruden’s system, but he should have things nailed down by Week One.
The real question for Smith is whether or not he has enough talent at the skill positions to be successful. Gruden is adamant his new quarterback can help elevate his receivers. That’s certainly going to be a requirement. Washington has some young, interesting receivers like Josh Doctson and Jordan Reed, but there’s no one who projects to be a Pro Bowl pass-catcher. That’s a significant departure from the embarrassment of offensive weapons Smith enjoyed in Kansas City.
Ultimately, Gruden is exactly right with his assertion that Smith must lead the Redskins to victories immediately. He wasn’t brought in to be a long-term answer. If he can’t outperform what Kirk Cousins gave Washington last season, he’s going to feel a ton of heat from Redskins fans all season long.